Colombia

COLOMBIA REFLECTION: The Magdalena

 

 

 

Mary Magdalene is one of the most controversial and mysterious Biblical characters.  Unjustly pegged as a prostitute and temptress by Pope Gregory I, her reputation remained tarnished for around seven centuries before Biblical scholars redeemed her by untangling the three women whose stories Gregory had merged.  Though we know very little about her life, we do know that she was a person of importance to Jesus.  He used his gifts to cast seven demons out of her, and chose her to be one of the first people to see him after the resurrection.  Her story is an interesting one to contemplate as I travel along ‘El Rio Magdalena,’ a beautiful river named after her, that has a similarly tainted reputation.

 

The Magdalena is Colombia’s longest river, and stretches from the most southern tip of the Huila Department* in southern Colombia to the Caribbean Sea.  The river is CPT’s main mode of transportation between Barrancabermeja, the city where we live, and the communities that we accompany.  Its banks are peppered with trees, fishing canoes and water taxis traveling past each other lazily, and children swim in its murky water.  Outsiders may view the present tranquil atmosphere and have difficulty imagining anything else.  Those who have lived along the river’s banks for more than ten years, however, see it differently.

COLOMBIA: Municipal authorities continue to abet seizure of El Guayabo community land

CPTnet
13 November 2014
COLOMBIA: Municipal authorities continue to abet seizure of El Guayabo community land


Puerto Wilches municipal authorities carried out an illegal eviction on 29 October 2014 in El Guayabo, during which riot police accompanied Rodrigo Lopez Henao in seizing Henry Rincon’s house and property.

Within an hour of arriving, 164 riot police had taken control of the house and removed all community members from the property.  Shortly after, unidentified men began to move into the house with suitcases.

They have remained in the house since, accompanied by the police for three days.  On Thursday, 30 October, the men removed a fence and began to chop down trees on the neighbouring farm with police accompaniment.  The community confronted the police about their partiality to Lopez Henao’s men and their illegal actions, and upon orders from their colonel in Barrancabermeja, the police asked the men to rebuild the fence along the original borders.

On 4 November, the attorney general’s office summoned two community members to make a statement against claims from Lopez Henao that they had threatened him and invaded his land.

The community has now built three houses around the property limits of Rincon’s house as part of a self-protection plan in light of the unknown men living in the house.

COLOMBIA: Las Pavas questions collective reparation program. Will Santos government stand up for Las Pavas?

On Wednesday, 17 September the Victims Unit (Unidad de Victimas) and the Colombian Institute for Rural Development (INCODER) visited the Las Pavas community to move the Collective Reparation process forward.  They also investigated violations that the Aportes San Isidro (ASI) palm oil company has committed against the community.  The first was the reinstallation of a gate that prevents Las Pavas community members from traveling on the main road to their farms, forcing them to take a difficult detour through the jungle.  The second was the construction of a house and resettlement of a family on Las Pavas’ land.  The latter is an illegal invasion of state land.

 The Collective Reparation process is a government program offered to communities or organizations as part of its efforts to compensate victims of the civil war.  The Las Pavas case is high profile because they one the 2013 National Peace Prize, so the government chose the community to be one of the first for collective reparation.  In theory, the process is a good one where reparation involves making services available to the community such as psychosocial care, housing, and development projects.  In October 2010, Presidente Santos announced his Shock Plan for land restitution.  He said that for peace to be achieved there needed to be serious measures taken about land redistribution and restitution.  The Las Pavas community was named as a priority case.  

In November of 2012, INCODER declared ‘eminent domain’ on the land of Las Pavas declaring it state land.  If Aportes San Isidro had respected this order, INCODER would then have divided the land and titled it to the families of Las Pavas.  However, powerful economic and political allies of ASI prevented the enforcement of this declaration.  Las Pavas community members have witnessed and documented ASI employees burning down families’ homes, destroying crops, severely beating and firing shots at people, stealing tools and killing livestock.  They have done all of this with full impunity.  The local authorities have arrested no one from the company even though they have received reports of these crimes.

 Two community members putting up a new fence to keep cattle from the new Aportes San Isidro
house from destroying their crops.

Prayers for Peacemakers, October 29, 2014

Prayers for Peacemakers, October 29, 2014

Pray for the families in Umm Al Kheir, Palestine and El Guayabo, Colombia who were made homeless this week.  The Israeli military demolished six homes in the village of Umm al-Kheir, leaving thirty-one people, including twelve children, homeless on 27 October.  On 29 October, riot police illegally evicted community members of El Guayabo, despite the fact that representatives of the Colombian government have said they have the right to remain on their land.

                                                                              Epixel* for Sunday November 2, 2014

Um Al Kheyr demolitions (1)10698481_748008208585648_3198763651215104780_n (1)
Umm al-KheirRiot police land in El Guayabo
 "Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted."Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth." 
                                                                           Matt. 5:4-5
  
 *epixel: a snapshot-epistle to the churches related to and appearing
with a text from the upcoming Sunday's  
Revised  Common Lectionary
 readings.
 

COLOMBIA URGENT ACTION: El Guayabo facing eviction tomorrow. Ask Mayor of Puerto Wilches to revoke illegal eviction order.

 

 
 Rodrigo López is escorted by ESMAD during the last eviction.

The community of El Guayabo in the municipality of Puerto Wilches has received information from a reliable source that the police colonel signed an illegal eviction order to be executed tomorrow, Wednesday 29 October 2014.  The proper authorities have not notified or made the community aware of the details of the eviction order and have not guaranteed the community the presence of the public defender as is mandated in cases such as these.  On Sunday 26 October, Mr. Rodrigo López and Mr. Jose Adelmo Caldas (identified by community members as an a ex-paramilitary) arrived with sixteen police officers in the community of El Guayabo, threatening eviction, although they brought with them no court order.

On 15 August, lawyers for the Colombian National Institution for Rural Development (INCODER) made it clear to the Mayor of Puerto Wilches that any eviction against the community is completely illegal as the land is currently under dispute in the federal court system.

Community members are understandably scared and angry.  Tomorrow will be the fifth eviction attempt in a series of irregular, illegal, and sometimes violent efforts to displace Guayabo farmers on claims of ownership by Rodrigo Lopez Henao.  The last eviction occurred on 26 June 2014, and involved Colombian riot police using tear gas and pepper spray and causing multiple injuries to community members.  In addition to eviction attempts, intimidation tactics have included unofficial visits by armed off-duty police and threats to community leaders.

Mayor German Duran is the highest local authority and has the power to intervene in this case.

Sign the Petition

Prayers for Peacemakers, October 15, 2014

Prayers for Peacemakers, October 15, 2014

Pray for all who stand up for human rights in Colombia.  The leading Colombian newspaper, El Espectador, says that aggressions against human rights defenders are up 170% from last year.

 

                                                               Epixel* for Sunday, October 12, 2014
JUDICIAL 9 OCT 2014 - 10:49 AM

En tercer trimestre

Aumentan en 170% agresiones a defensores de derechos humanos

Mientras que el número de amenazas en el tercer trimestre de 2014 supone un incremento del 234 % con respecto al mismo período de 2013.

For [The Lord] is coming, for he is coming to judge the earth. He will judge the world with righteousness, and the peoples with his truth. Psalm 96: 13b
*epixel: a snapshot-epistle to the churches related to and appearing with a text from the upcoming Sunday's Revised Common Lectionary readings.
 

COLOMBIA: In spite of trauma, a smile


[Note: The following has been adapted for CPTnet.  The original is available on CPT Colombia’s website.]

As we arrived at the meeting with the people of Bella Union, a village neighboring El Guayabo, I saw a woman sitting under a green tree with a big smile.  I immediately thought it would be interesting to know more about her.

Our task was very specific: to document cases of human rights violations from 1990 to 2014.  Soon it was time for the woman with the beautiful smile to share.  She was a bit tired because she had given her statement many times without seeing results, so I paid close attention to what she was saying.

As she told me step by step what she had suffered at the hands of violent actors, her smile grew more radiant.  She did not seem weighed down by sadness, despite the fact that over ten years ago, violence in the region put out a light in their lives.  She continued recounting the events that ended the lives of her family: first the story of her father’s death, then her brother’s, and then she took a break, saying that the story of her son was the most painful. 

COLOMBIA VIDEO: “The chocolate process”--a cup of hot chocolate truly made from scratch

CPT Colombia has a new video out showing how the community of Garzal makes a cup of hot chocolate—from the time the cacao fruit is picked, to the preparation and husking of cocoa beans, to the cup of sweet deliciousness. 

Watch here 

Cup of Chocolate // Una Taza de Chocolate from CPT/ECAP Colombia on Vimeo.

The communities of Garzal and Nueva Esperanza have engaged in what is called a “social process” to resist displacement and stand up for their rights and their dignity for more than a decade.  They are among the primary communities that CPT Colombia accompanies.

COLOMBIA: El Guayabo calls for justice and transparency in Puerto Wilches

In his 1984 address at Mennonite World Conference that served as the catalyst for the formation of Christian Peacemaker Teams, Ron Sider described shalom as “being in right relationship with God, neighbor and the earth.”  Shalom, he says, “means not only the absence of war, but also…the fair division of land so that all families can earn their own way.  It…means the Jubilee and sabbatical release of debts so that great extremes of wealth and poverty do not develop among God’s people.”

 When I walk through the community of El Guayabo on a peaceful day, shalom is what I see.  People live together, worship together, farm together, and welcome strangers into their homes.  There is food for everyone, even a surplus to feed the neighboring towns.  The recent illegal eviction attempt that violently disrupted peace in this community was not only unethical, but also tainted a lifestyle that is holy, a lifestyle that I believe is pleasing to God.

 On 11 August 2014, the communities of El Guayabo and Bella Union gathered to pray publicly and call for political transparency in the town of Puerto Wilches.  They used songs, Bible verses, speeches, and a dramatic action to bring attention to the recent illegal eviction attempt made by riot police.  During the planning stage, El Guayabo leader Eric told the Christian Peacemaker Team delegation that the goal of the action was to spread awareness about the eviction attempt (the origins of which developed under suspicious circumstances) in Puerto Wilches, the largest town in their municipality. 

 

Edinson Garcia speaks during the laying down of the recent harvest

 

When they arrived at the Mayor’s office, the farmers knelt, each placing a different crop from the most recent harvest on the pavement outside the entrance.  CPTers moved forward with palm branches and symbolically covered the crops, as a delegate listed aloud the harmful consequences that a lack of transparency about the eviction process would have for the community.  The delegation then publicly stated their support for the community as the Mayor looked on.  At the conclusion of the action, a delegation leader gave a petition to the Mayor signed by 180 international partners.

COLOMBIA REFLECTION: My hero


The first time I met my hero she was one of a dozen dusty, carefree children congregated like a school of fish on the edge of town as they dreamed up their next adventure.  Buenos Aires looked like of the best places on earth to be a kid: a small, quiet riverside town with a whole jungle out back to explore, where they were free to be queens and kings of their own destiny. 

It was a warning to me that singled her out from this mob of Indiana Joneses: “That one over there—the angelic, sweet, little girl with the springy curls and big smile?  She’s a handful.  Give her a foot and she’ll take a mile.” 

Jimena sure is a handful—a handful of spunk, spirit, and joy.  She’s nine years old and she wants to be a doctor when she grows up to help people with heart problems.  Her toothy grin and the way she snuggles up under my arm and into my heart leaves me no doubt that she’ll save many lives.